How Song Dynasty Art Inspires A Taiwanese Painter
Taiwanese oil painter Chang Kuo Erh seamlessly fuses Western oil painting techniques with Eastern aesthetics
In his poem Leisure, Welsh poet William Henry Davies writes, “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.” In these timeless verses, the poet reminds us of the importance of forgetting our worries and enjoying the wonder of beauty and nature. When looking at the colourful, whimsical scenes depicted in Chang Kuo Erh’s oil paintings, where even the most ordinary of subjects are infused with a spark of life, Davies’s words come to mind, inviting us to pause to “stand and stare.”
Inspired by the beauty of nature and Song Dynasty art, Chang’s artistic images—new blooms, fallen leaves, windswept grasses, or delicately patterned birds—draw the viewer in with a tangible sense of reverence for the vitality of the world around us.
Born in Taichung, Taiwan in 1963, Chang was an avid painter from a tender age. “I’ve always been deeply influenced by Song Dynasty Neo-Confucianism,” he says, noting that his artworks have strong roots within the centuries-old aesthetics of Eastern culture.
A thousand-year influence
The delicate flower and bird paintings of the Song Dynasty are regarded by many as the zenith of Chinese art history. Minimalistic yet elegant, these exquisitely refined compositions not only replicate the physical characteristics of their subjects but also capture their inner spirit.
By transcending the ever-changing world of nature, Song Dynasty art conveys the transience of beauty and leave a lingering poetic impression on the viewer. These works have had a significant impact on aesthetic tastes throughout East Asia—indeed, they continue to reverberate throughout the world over 1,000 years later.
The aesthetic influences of Song Dynasty art run strongly throughout Chang’s work. The artist has applied several traditional Chinese painting techniques. Among these is the use of blank space—or as he puts it, “using emptiness to enhance what is there”—to draw the viewer’s eyes to the focal point of a painting.